We’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the thirtieth in the series.

While the recent uprising in Tunisia could scarcely be described as a Facebook or Twitter—let alone a WikiLeaks—revolution, the fall of Zine al Abidine Ben Ali’s dictatorial regime has reignited debates over the role of social media in organized political action. Following events in Iran and Moldova, where the use of Twitter and other platforms seemed, at least initially, to have facilitated popular insurrection against authoritarianism, the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell sparked a firestorm of controversy by arguing that despite claims to the contrary, the revolution would in fact not be tweeted. Critics countered with the claim that no serious voice in the discussion was making the argument Gladwell seemed to be refuting, and that the Tipping Point author had misconstrued social activism’s basic nature, of which social media had become an integral part.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s clear where the US Embassy in Jakarta stands on the question. According to a WikiLeaked cable published by the Guardian Tuesday, the Indonesian mission requested $100,000 in immediate assistance last February to beef up its social media profile in advance of President Barack Obama’s trip to the country the following March.

The cable justified its request by noting that it “is on the forefront of Public Diplomacy 2.0” and that the mission is basically the most popular kid in school.

Already the leading U.S. Mission in the world on Facebook with nearly 50,000 “fans,” and one of the leading Missions using Twitter YouTube and engaging local bloggers to promote USG messages and information, we are uniquely positioned to use these tools to amplify key topics and themes to support the upcoming visit by President Obama.

The plan, it seemed, was to “boost our Facebook fan page membership to 1 million” in roughly a month’s time. According to the cable’s author,

Indonesia’s internet community is emerging, but recently has become a powerful political force for reform. With roughly 10 percent of the population able to access the internet at least monthly, this represents over 25 million people, nearly half of whom are on Facebook. In addition, Indonesians’ special connection to the 44th president means that interest in the visit is incredibly high.

In the long term, the dispatch argues that

By actively connecting the POTUS visit to our new media efforts, we have a unique chance to build a sustainable online platform to engage Indonesians on USG issues and messages long after the visit.

If this plan doesn’t sound nutty in theory, it begins to in proposed practice. The embassy’s “action plan and implantation” spells out a plan of attack predicated on some fuzzy math.

Currently, Embassy Jakarta spends less than $25 per day on advertising, and nets between 300-400 new fans daily.

The cable provides no evidence that advertising dollars directly correlate to increased fandom, nor to what extent, but steams ahead nevertheless.

Increasing this tenfold over thirty days, results in a gain of 100,000 to 120,000 fans. The funds would also be used to promote the visit and our fan page as the place to learn more by extensively advertising on Indonesian online portals, banner ads, YouTube, Twitter, and other promotional efforts, including embedding bloggers, contests and giveaways, and using SMS technology.

The strategy also included a promotional idea stolen right from the pages of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Another key promotion strategy to generate interest will be offering a “golden ticket” via Facebook. We propose making a dream come true for one lucky Indonesian, by providing an opportunity to meet POTUS during his visit. If the White House approves, we could invite fans to post why they should meet President Obama, and in doing so, use our social media platform to connect fans to the visit, as well as build excitement beforehand and follow-up coverage afterwards.

Not only that, the embassy pitched a sort-of reality show, which would involve

partner[ing] with a local TV station to have a “finalist” show and increase coverage. RSO would ensure any winner(s) are veted for security issues. If the White House would not agree to this, an alternate “dream prize” might be an educational trip to the US.

Apparently the White House did not agree to this, but the show was staged anyways, and alternate “dream prizes” sent three Indonesians to the States on a tour of important places in the life of Barack Obama.

As for the embassy’s Facebook page, regardless of whether the monies came through or not, the Indonesian Mission failed in attracting its desired one million fans. But don’t feel too bad about its virtual profile. The site currently boasts a healthy 300,000 “likes” and counting, numbers which the page’s creators are quick to point out surpass those of all other embassies combined, and outstrip the State Department’s popularity by a magnitude of five. OMG!

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